Texas House passes budget

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by JESSICA VESS / KVUE News & Photojournalist KENNETH NULL

Bio | Email | Follow: @JessicaV_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on April 5, 2013 at 7:14 AM

Updated Friday, Apr 5 at 9:56 AM

AUSTIN -- State lawmakers are moving forward with a new budget for Texas.

The House passed its version 135 to 12 just before 10 p.m. Thursday. The budget totals $193.8 billion. About $93 billion of that comes from state funds. The rest comes from federal funds.
 
It took about 12 hours of negotiating before the votes came down. Lawmakers had 267 amendments to sift through.

The final budget gives additional dollars to public schools, college campuses and mental health programs. State employees will also see small raises and state parks which faced shaky finances will be saved from closure.

Other amendments took a hit, including a proposal for school vouchers. The voucher program would have allowed state dollars to go toward scholarships for Texas students who attend low-performing public schools. Those students could then use the money to attend a private school. The state's top leaders backed the idea.

“I'm upset about the fact that right now we've got 530 separate campuses that are academically unacceptable; failing,” said Lt. Governor David Dewhurst last October.

Some educators raised doubts.

“I can't see any voucher system out there today that would provide those kinds of resources for our kids,” explained Rita Haecker of the Texas State Teachers Association.

Ultimately it didn’t get enough support in the House to pass through in the final budget.

Another plan to add more than one million people to the Medicaid program also failed to get enough support. Despite the differences, the process was one of the fastest in recent sessions. Previously lawmakers have remained in chamber debating through amendments until the early morning hours.

"This budget, like with the session, overall is going relatively very smoothly. A lot of cooperation, a lot of collaboration and we're doing a pretty good job," said State Rep. Larry Gonzalez (R) Round Rock.

The budget isn't finalized yet. A committee of five House members and five Senate members will team up to combine their two versions of the budget into a single proposal to hand over to the Governor.

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